Would the Cavaliers make this trade?
We have already established how much the Cavaliers need a player like Royce O’Neale. He is a career 38.4 percent shooter from downtown, and he is remarkably consistent; he has hit between 37.7 percent and 38.9 percent from 3-point range in each of the last five seasons. Cleveland can count on his shot.
O’Neale entered the league late, and he is already 30 years old. His athleticism has taken a small step back, so in the realm of perimeter defenders he’s not Mikal Bridges or Kawhi Leonard. Even so, he is a strong defender with decent-enough mobility who can defend guards and forwards. He would be an obvious choice to start at small forward and defend the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Is it worth trading two picks and Ricky Rubio? The team loves having Rubio around, and his influence has been tremendous on Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. He also had a poor season a year ago coming off of his torn ACL; he should be better now, further removed from the injury, but it’s hard for the Cavs to count on him.
On the other hand, they know firsthand what it’s like not to have point guard depth. When Rubio went down with his injury, the Cavs found themselves floundering for backup point guard minutes; when Garland missed a few games in that stretch it was a disaster, with Brandon Goodwin, Kevin Pangos and Rajon Rondo unable to hold down the fort.
Trading Rubio would likely mean trying to find a replacement on the market as a third point guard behind Ty Jerome. The pickings are slim, but the obvious choice may be close to home: signing Sharife Cooper to a contract. Other options would include TyTy Washington if-and-when he is waived by the Oklahoma City Thunder, or bringing back Raul Neto.
Finding a third point guard is easier than finding a 3-and-D wing, and O’Neale is a solid fit with what the Cavs are building: elite shot-creation at guard, elite defense at big, and shooting in between. The cost is reasonable, and there aren’t exactly a host of other options banging down the door. This is a move worth making.